Kelly Starrett is the owner of Crossfit San Francisco and if you have no idea who he is after reading this article you will. Kelly is currently a Doctor of Physical Therapy and posts daily mobility drills on his website MobilityWOD that me & you can start doing today to perform basic human maintenance on ourselves. I had been following Kelly’s work for about 3 months and decided to email him inviting him to come out to MBSC for a visit and wouldn’t you know within a few hours Kelly emailed me back more then happy to visit and even invited us to attend his seminar that same weekend at Crossfit New England.
Say whatever you want about Crossfit, Kelly is an unbelievably smart guy, he does things right, and he has a lot of great things to offer that, we as coaches, can start using to help our clients & their mobility issues.
Here are 10 of my favorite gems from Kelly’s talk this past weekend…
1. “Mobility is a just tool to achieve a better position” I think this was the biggest nail on the head for me. Mobility is just a tool…. just like the barbell is a tool, a kettlebell is a tool, the FMS is a tool, bands are a tool, the PVC pipe is a tool, your trainer’s probably a tool, unless of course your trainer is me… (that was a joke please laugh).
We need to start thinking of mobility as it relates to getting our athletes or clients into better positions to perform movements and to perform those movement for multiple reps without breaking down.
I pray to god these “tools” are not part of your coaching toolbox
2.“A better position = better performance” If you’re jumping and you start in a great position but you land in a horrible position, where’s your next jump going to be???? Remember most sports require you to maintain your performance overtime. Does Soccer require one good sprint and one good kick… games over, heading for the showers coach! No. You need to reproduce that same kick, jump, sprint, slide, many many times over during the game while the body fatigues if you want to be the best soccer player. It’s the same thing in the gym when we perform multiple reps & sets of an exercise. Who’s going to correctly overhead squat 95 lb more times in a row? The guy whose “strong like bull” but lacks some serious mobility & positioning… or the guy whose pretty lean but has perfect positioning on each rep start to finish? The guy with better positioning of course, because he can maintain his performance over a longer period of time even with fatigue.
3. “It takes AT LEAST 2 min to make change” You think you’ve been stretching and mobilizing long enough before your workouts, but lets be real you haven’t been. It takes at least 2 minutes to make change, so set the clock and try to hide your pain face. Doing one mobility drill for two minutes per side feels like an eternity but in the end it’s worth it. Before I may have spent 20 to 30 seconds on an area or a stretch then I’d move on. Now I pick 3 or 4 areas to hit with the lacrosse ball or to stretch with the band based off that days main exercise, 2 minutes per side, 12 to 16 minutes of my workout. What – a – difference.
The LAX Ball – You’re new best friend. 2 minutes will feel like 2 hours when digging in with this Bad Larry
4. “Always Test/Retest… this is how we know things work!” If you’re not test/retesting during the workout, BIG mistake. Test/Retest does two things for you 1. It lets you know what’s working! If you test/retest and the problem gets better, YAY! Keep doing what you’re doing. If you test/retest and the problem didn’t get any better then you know your looking in the wrong place. 2. Test/Retest is an awesome selling tool! For example: take your client who has poor hip internal & external rotation, you have them roll their glutes with a lax ball (warning this hurts like hell) for 2 min on each cheek & then do the band hip flexor stretch w/ internal rotation for 2 min on each side…. and WHAM! The retest shows them & you that both internal & external are better. Then you have them stand up and squat to let them “feel” the difference… “WOW! That feels amazing! Here’s my credit card!” is usually the answer you’ll get. Now you have a client that’s all ears and now is the time you convince your client or athlete to start doing this stuff at home everyday, even before they come into the gym. If you can get athletes & clients to do their “homework”, this is where the real changes happen, and you are one hell of a coach!
5. “Try to Spread the floor with your feet” I had actually heard this same tip from Mark Verstegan at the Perform Better Summit and had thought of including it in my “3 Deadlifting Tips You May Have Never Heard Before” article but I hadn’t played around with it enough yet until Kelly reconfirmed if for me at the seminar.
Start with your feet shoulder width apart & toes straight. Then I want you to think that you are trying to rip the ground apart with your feet. This will create and unbelievable amount of tension in the lower body. The glutes, quads, and rotators of the hip will be firing hard before you even pick up the bar. Notice, that when you do this your knees slightly turn out and it creates that good arch that we want in the foot when we perform all movements. Your knees, as well as your ankles, are now in a better position to receive the bar and the likelihood of the knee or ankle collapsing decreases. Note: I am not encouraging a weight shift. You should still have your weight evenly distributed throughout the foot. I liken this thought process to “screwing your hands” into the ground before doing a push up to engage the lats & the core. You can use this cue on any exercise that involves the feet being under the shoulders… deadlifts, squats, box jumps, palloff presses, military presses, ect…
6. “3 items of homework for the best adherence” Why 3? Well you can of course do more, but 3 is usually the magic number to getting people to adhere to something. Any more then that and you’re probably asking too much. You should be working towards getting you clients & athletes to do these drills at home, on off days, and to come in early before their workouts leaving them more time for training and you more time for coaching.
7. “10-15 min everyday. No days off!” Mobility needs to become an everyday ritual if you want to make change. When programming for your workouts pick 3 mobility drills and gear them towards your main lifts for the day. 3 Drills at 2 min per side = 12 min of your workout. Scheduled off day? Take 12 min and get mobility work in on your problem areas. Wake up and your hips are tight? Take 12 min and mobilize them while you watch TV. Injured? Take 12 min and mobilize everything around it. No days off.
8. “Always mobilize in a good position” Well what exactly is a good position?? Well for optimal performance, human movements should be performed & maintained in Torsional Stability: Flexion & External Rotation/ Extension & Internal Rotation. For example when we squat we coach “knees out” which puts us in external rotation while we flex the hip = a good position. When we go over head with any type of lifting movement we want the arm externally rotated because we are in flexion. When we sprint we want the leg internally rotated because the hip is in extension. Knowing this about the joints then if we are mobilizing with the arm overhead in flexion, the arm should be externally rotated. If you are stretching the hip flexors, aka extending the hip, the leg should be internally rotated. Mobilizing in in poor positions supports bad movement & lengthens the tissues in the wrong areas. (If you didn’t understand any of that watch some of Kelly’s videos, he explains it a hell of a lot better the I can)
9. “Fail in a good position” If you happen to fail on a lift, which is going to happen, you’ll want to fail in a good position. In most cases what is the mechanism of injury while performing an exercise? Poor positioning or lost positioning. This is why it’s so important to begin in a good position. If you begin in a bad position you have already set yourself or your client up for failure. Kelly calls this “Entering the tunnel”. Check out his most recent MobilityWOD on the idea of “The Tunnel”…
10. “If it feels sketchy = sketchy. If it feels creepy = creepy. In either case STOP what you’re doing” If you or a client are trying out a mobility drill and it doesn’t feel right, or you feel uncomfortable, STOP what you’re doing immediately. There is no one holding a gun to your head saying that YOU have to that mobility drill get the desired results. There are tons of different exercise & drills for mobility & none of them should hurt. Be sure that you explain this to your clients before they start and tell them what they should feel and that at any time they can stop. Then as they do the drill be sure to keep asking them for feedback.
And there you go. 10 things I learned from Kelly Starrett. If you want another perspective on the topic and this past weekends seminar check out Coach Kevin Carr’s latest post “Concepts for Mobility”
Thanks for reading!